4 Min ReadApril 10, 2024

Truck Dealer Staffing Shortages: Can You Use AI to Do More With Less?

Stylized illustration of a truck

The trucking industry has a long history of personnel shortages. While a dearth of drivers and technicians may get the most attention, the entire industry — including truck dealers — struggles with staffing issues. When it comes to dealers, these shortages have been exacerbated by the fact that today nearly every industry experiences issues with finding people. In short: More businesses are competing for the same people.

Can artificial intelligence help?

Help may be on the way in the form of AI. In some cases, AI may allow you to employ fewer people, but perhaps more critically, it can automate repetitive tasks, which can make jobs more appealing and therefore easier to fill. Machine learning and natural language processing are derivatives of AI that can also be leveraged by dealers. Machine learning algorithms learn from existing data and apply that knowledge to new data to make better predictions. Natural language processing allows computers to understand text and spoken words like humans do.

Let’s look at some ways dealers can use AI in their operations to improve efficiency.

  • Customer service: Many customer service inquiries are repetitive. AI shines when it comes to handling mundane tasks and can reduce response time for routine queries.
  • Lead generation: Working in concert with a dealership’s customer relationship management system (CRM), AI can identify and qualify customers in the market for a fleet renewal.
  • Appointment scheduling: Cognitive bots are the latest AI tool that customers can use to book appointments online. This reduces the administrative staff’s burden.
  • Inventory management: AI can be leveraged to forecast inventory demand by analyzing buying patterns and factoring in vehicle sales information. It can recommend inventory stocking levels and account for seasonal parts needed as well.
  • Predictive service: By analyzing service histories of vehicles that the dealership maintains and repairs, AI can identify service failure trends. This will allow dealership Service department personnel to recommend repairs to customers to prevent on-road breakdowns.
  • Financial automation: AI can assist with things like data entry and invoice processing. Use it for these functions to reduce errors and ensure compliance with procedures and policies. AI can also categorize spend categories, so finance professionals can analyze company spend and do a better job of managing it.
  • Recruitment: Automate the hiring process by using AI to screen resumés for certain types of experience, schedule candidate interviews, and even send automated follow-up information.
  • Employee assessment: You can also use AI to analyze the skill sets of your employees and compare them to job requirements. This can help you match employees to job opportunities that fit their abilities and experience, which gets the right people in the right job as well as help develop career paths for employees — something critical for a younger generation of workers.
  • Employee training: Ineffective onboarding and training can cause employees to leave jobs after just a few months. AI can customize training programs that address each individual’s needs.
  • Workforce scheduling: Most businesses have ebbs and flows in their operations — times of the day or weeks in a month when things get downright busy. For example, AI can analyze peak service demand periods to make sure the shop is properly staffed to meet customer demand. Dealers will have the right number of technicians scheduled at the right times.

Don’t Lose the Personal Touch

Trucking has always been a relationship business where people buy from who they know, like and trust. One of the concerns dealers have with AI is that they’ll lose contact with customers. When used properly, AI can provide dealer personnel with more insight into their customers, allowing them to tailor solutions more closely to customer needs. It can also enhance the dealership’s ability to proactively make recommendations on necessary repairs or even suggest the appropriate time to replace a vehicle.

The best use of AI in dealerships is in situations where it can remove repetitive and mundane tasks from employees so they can perform more complex tasks.

It isn’t yet clear if AI can help reduce headcount or overcome staffing shortages. What’s clear is that AI can make existing employees more productive. Also, AI will have a far broader role in business than simply reducing headcount. When deployed properly, AI can free employees to concentrate on tasks where human skills, such as empathy and interpretation, can be used to solve more complicated problems.

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CDK Global Heavy Truck
By CDK Global Heavy Truck

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